The Steelers Report Card vs. the Chiefs

From the grade book of a teacher who watched the Steelers escape from Arrowhead and issues a report card replete with the stinking feeling that his star students are coasting when they should be putting the pedal to the metal. Here goes the Steelers report card for their Escape from Arrowhead.

Ben Roethlisberger’s performance on the touchdown pass was something to behold – how many other quarterbacks can make that play? And can you imagine Brady/Rodgers/Brees throwing a block to save a botched reverse the way he did? Those positive must be weighed against an ugly, costly interception, piss poor third down conversion rate, and a costly miscue with the punt team. Grade: C+

Running Backs
When the Steelers running backs had holes, they hit them and made things happen. When they didn’t, they were stuck. The group did not get much help from its offensive line, but they made up for it with their performance on check downs. That said, Mewelde Moore’s fumble drops the grade for the whole group. Grade: B-

Wide Receivers
Another great game by Antonio Brown. The rest of the receiving corps however did not distinguish itself, although it was certainly nice to see Hines Ward come down with one of the team’s 3 third down conversions. Mike Wallace dropped a touchdown and appears to have problems with double coverage deep. Health Miller had a nice catch but also at least one drop. Give the Kansas City secondary credit, but this team needed more plays form its receivers than it got, Weslye Saunders outstanding TD not withstanding. Grade: C+

Offensive Line
Steel Curtain Rising commented on the fact that a stealer performance by the offensive line vs. the Ravens was wasted. Since then the group has played as if it were wasted. Another sub-par performance from the line. Roethlisberger’s fancy footwork saved innumerable sacks he had no protection. Holding penalties either put the Steelers in into holes or nullified positive gains. Run blocking was “inconsistent” to say the least. Line play has steadily improved since Max Starks return. It has steadily slid since the Raven’s game. Sean Kugler must reverse this trend. Grade: C-

Defensive Line
The Chief’s game plan was going to be simple: Run and dare the Steelers to stop them. The Chiefs pounded the ball 34 times yet failed to crack the century mark. The stat sheet might say that Casey Hampton only had one tackle – but he was a force. Ziggy Hood, Cameron Heyward and Steve McLendon all got into the action. Brett Keisel also recovered another fumble. Grade: B+

Jason Worlids got his first NFL sack and seemed to applying pressure registering 4 QB hits. James Harrison did well in run coverage, but failed to be a force in the pass rush. Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior also played well in run coverage. All those are good things, but the Steelers needed more pressure on Plako than they got. Grade: B.

Troy Polamalu must learn to be smarter about making tackles. ESPN is already questioning whether he should consider retirement. Ryan Mundy was all over the field leading the team in tackles and recording an interception. Ike Taylor got an interception and had his hands on another. Keenan Lewis also joined the club.

The fact the Plako moved the ball effectively during his final drive is reason to frown. However, the fact the Chief’s final drive meant anything says a lot more about the Steelers offensive impotence than it does the secondary. For the second straight game, the Steelers secondary made a pick to stop a last-gasp drive. Grade: A-

Special Teams
Emmanuel Sanders averaged 25 yards and change returning kicks last year. Against KC it was closer to 18. KC also got some punt return yardage. Holding penalties forced the offense to start with its back to the end zone on a night when it needed help from specials teams, not hindrance. The Chiefs also telegraphed, then converted a fake punt. All of these negatives are partially modified by Shaun Suisham’s making a 49 yarder that no one in Steelers Nation figured he could make. His difference making kick brings an otherwise dismal grade up to respectability. Grade: B-

Two penalties for 12 men on the field. A botched 4th down conversion opportunity with a wasted time out to boot. The Kansas City rush defense looking like the 85 Bears for portions of the game. Holding penalties, false start penalties. You name it, the Steelers were out of sorts whereas the Chiefs played with the passion, if not always the execution, of a team contending for the top spot in the AFC. Dick LeBeau’s unit did him proud, but Mike Tomlin, Bruce Arians, and Al Everest have all had far better “days at the office.” Grade: D

Unsung Hero
The quality and quantity of the depth chart at corner was the raging concern of Steelers Nation during the 2011 season. Nary a word was uttered with respect to the depth at safety behind Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark. And perhaps their was good reason for it. All season long the Steelers number 3 safety has quietly assumed a role as the defenses unofficial 12th starter. The starting role became official vs. the Chiefs, and Ryan Mundy distinguished himself smartly, and for that he wins the Steelers Unsung Hero award.

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2 thoughts on “The Steelers Report Card vs. the Chiefs

  1. Awesome analysis, Keith. I agree with pretty much all the grades. Big Ben is about as good an escape artist (who actually looks to throw first) since the days of John Elway. Nobody can tell me otherwise. It’s funny, my uncle texted me yesterday and said that Steve Young considered Brees, Rodgers and Brady to be the best escape artists in the game. Sometimes, I think those guys just like to say stuff to hear themselves talk.

    As for the ugly win. Hey, the Steelers won some ugly games last year and at the end of ’08, but they were still able to advance to the Super Bowl each season. I’m not too concerned.

  2. Thanks Tony,

    I agree with you. Brees and company might have something on Ben on one level, but they cannot do what Ben does when it comes to improvising.

    As for the ugly win, you’re right. But I also think the issue is more complex…..

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